Think Porsches are Snob Cars? The Swap Meet Tells a Different Tale
Many view Porsche as a luxury brand that lies somewhere between BMW and Ferrari. They see a hierarchy of car snobbery whereby when someone can afford more than a BMW, they buy a Porsche to show off and sneer at lesser drivers on their morning commute. Given the cost of modern European luxury cars (especially Porsches), it’s easy to see how this narrative takes hold. But looking purely through the lens of money and luxury is a limited view. It doesn’t account for the enthusiasts wrenching on their passion project, scouring salvage yards for spare parts, or dreaming about barn finds with perfectly imperfect paint.
Each spring the Central PA Region of Porsche Club hosts a Porsche swap meet in Hershey, PA. This event neither sounds sexy nor luxurious in the way that most perceive the modern Porsche brand, and the event is the perfect counterpoint to the perspective that Porsches are snob cars. Not to say that the cars that show up aren’t valuable – quite the opposite. The increase in values of all air cooled Porsches over the past decade is well documented. But most of these cars were pretty affordable twenty years ago, and the enthusiasts are the ones who kept them alive.
There’s a practical purpose to a swap meet. If you need hard to find parts for your old Porsche, then this is a great place. I saw a guy proudly carrying a big whale tale that he just found for his ‘80s 911 and another with a box of pistons. Everything from obscure interior trim to vintage engines running on stands proving their “air worthiness” can be found here. But the Hershey swap meet has become much more than people buying parts which is immediately evident by the sheer scale of the place. I counted roughly 1,000 Porsches parked row after row after row. Many people come just to hang out and bask in Porsche car culture. They look for interesting models, rare colors, and new Porsche swag. Cars that are worth $15k are parked right next to those that are $150k (and up!) and everyone is just hanging out, talking cars and looking at oddball parts and cars for sale.
To me, Porsche is the brand that best ties their current modern offerings to many decades of making some of the world’s most iconic sports cars. The 2018 Porsche 911 is as instantly recognizable as a Porsche 911 as is one that rolled off the assembly line in 1963. Jeremy Clarkson famously called the Porsche design team the laziest in the world as they introduce model after model that basically looks the same. Porsche has been making the 911 with the same basic drive train and engine layout for over 50 years – 6 cylinders, flat engine, in the very back of the car. Of course, a new Porsche is a completely different animal from even a 10 year old one, but you can still instantly tell both are Porsches. Their values are all over the place based on the year, model, and condition, but it’s not always about the money. The driver may just be a jerk getting to work in his new "Porsch", or he could be an enthusiast enjoying a iconic machine – reveling in the distinctive sound of a flat six cylinder motor, the sight of beautiful fenders visible out the front windshield, and the feel of steering unencumbered with the weight of an engine.